Trump, facing criminal charges, calls for defunding the FBI
Former US president Donald Trump on Wednesday called on his fellow Republicans in Congress to slash funding for the US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), going on the offensive a day after pleading not guilty in New York to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.
Trump, who is seeking to regain the presidency in 2024, took aim at federal law enforcement authorities even though the historic criminal charges against him — the first brought against any former or sitting president — were pursued by the Manhattan district attorney.
“REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS SHOULD DEFUND THE DOJ AND FBI UNTIL THEY COME TO THEIR SENSES,” Trump wrote on his social media platform. DOJ stands for the Department of Justice.
Republicans in the past have supported robust funding for law enforcement and have criticised proposals from some on the left in recent years to “defund” local police departments.
Trump, who served as president from 2017 to 2021, backed spending increases for the Justice Department and FBI while in office. The FBI is the US domestic intelligence and security agency.
Trump faces two Justice Department criminal investigations led by a special counsel appointed by US Attorney General Merrick Garland. One focuses on efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election that he lost to Democratic President Joe Biden and the other focuses on classified documents that Trump retained after leaving office.
Trump himself appointed the current FBI director, Christopher Wray, after firing the agency’s previous chief, James Comey, in 2017.
Congress appears unlikely to follow through on Trump’s demand.
Republicans control the House of Representatives and Democrats control the Senate.
The FBI on Wednesday declined to comment on Trump’s remarks.
Reduced funding for federal law enforcement also would not affect another criminal investigation involving Trump led by a county prosecutor in Georgia, focusing on whether he unlawfully sought to overturn his 2020 election loss in that state.
The office of Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, charged Trump on Tuesday with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records over allegations that he orchestrated payments to two women before the 2016 election to suppress publication of their sexual encounters with him.
Prosecutors said the payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal constituted an attempt to conceal a violation of election law.
Opinion polls show Trump as the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination as he seeks to deny Biden a second term in office.
Trump has over the years complained that law enforcement at the national and state level were targeting him for political purposes, and his fellow Republicans in Congress have held hearings to examine what they describe as the “weaponisation” of government.
Trump and his allies have accused Bragg, a Democrat, of bringing the charges for political reasons. Bragg, in comments after the charges were brought on Tuesday, said he has a responsibility to ensure everyone stands equal before the law.
Trump appeared at an arraignment in New York on Tuesday before flying back to his home in Florida to make public remarks. He declared himself the victim of election interference, without offering evidence.
“I never thought anything like this could happen in America,” Trump told supporters gathered at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach. “The only crime that I’ve committed has been to fearlessly defend our nation against those who seek to destroy it.”
Trump accused Bragg of being out to get him “before he knew anything about me.” He said the judge in the case, Juan Merchan, is “a Trump-hating judge.”
Merchan has set the next hearing in the Trump case for December 4.
Legal experts said a trial may not even get under way for a year.
Indictment or even conviction does not legally prevent a person from running for president.